• Srap Tasmaner
    2.7k
    @Tristan L has recently defended a version of Platonism in another thread, not entirely congenial to that thread's originator, so I thought we could have a separate thread about that.

    A lot of that discussion turned on what we mean when we say that two people have the same idea, so that's where I propose to begin.

    The claim is that if Alice is thinking something, and if Bob is thinking the same thing as Alice, then there is something that Alice and Bob are both thinking -- "there is" in a full-blooded sense.

    The idea is that there is a proof here:
    1. thinking(Alice, X)
    2. thinking(Bob, Y)
    3. X = Y
    4. X (or Y) exists and is unique

    What does (3) say? It looks like it says that the object named "X" is the same as the object named "Y", in which case, Bob has nothing to do with it; we have just interpreted "Alice is thinking something" as "There is something that Alice is thinking," and done the same for Bob. That's just question begging.

    Suppose instead we try to use predicates:
    1. thinking(Alice, something X-ish)
    2. thinking(Alice, something Y-ish)
    3. something is X-ish if and only if it is Y-ish

    But (3) just gets us that X and Y are co-extensive, nothing about thoughts being things unless you again say that when we say "Alice is thinking something X-ish" we mean "There is something X-ish that Alice is thinking". And that again is question begging.

    So this is the question:

      If Alice is thinking something, must we conclude there is something that Alice is thinking?
  • Andrew M
    1.1k
    So this is the question:

    If Alice is thinking something, must we conclude there is something that Alice is thinking?
    Srap Tasmaner

    Yes, I think so. The only difference is that the grammatical subject and object is switched. Compare with:

    • If Alice is kicking something, must we conclude there is something that Alice is kicking?

    Yes, for example, a ball.

    The deeper issue raised by your question is that that "something" is abstract. We can consider that abstraction (in this case, an idea or thought) separately from the concrete context it is found in, but it's not actually separate. So Platonism doesn't follow (i.e., a prior and separate realm of Ideas or Forms).
  • Srap Tasmaner
    2.7k
    Compare with:

    If Alice is kicking something, must we conclude there is something that Alice is kicking?

    Yes, for example, a ball.
    Andrew M

    Sure, but what goes in place of "something" in "Alice is kicking something"? It's a noun phrase of some kind:

      (a) A proper name: "Alice is kicking Steve";
      (b) An indefinite noun phrase: "Alice is kicking a ball";
      (c) A definite noun phrase: "Alice is kicking the ball."

    Can we do the same thing with "Alice is thinking something"? No, no, and no.

    ADDED:
    There are more options and one of the ones I left out has a fun sub-case:

    (i) Alice is kicking what I left on the floor.
    (ii) Alice is thinking what I am thinking.
  • tim wood
    5.6k
    If Alice is thinking something, must we conclude there is something that Alice is thinking?Srap Tasmaner
    We don't have to do or conclude anything. And that unlocks the thing. In this case, I argue, that if you care about meaning and language, then yes you do. That is, there's the unstated if.

    Sure, but what goes in place of "something" in "Alice is kicking something"? It's a noun phrase of some kind:
    (a) A proper name: "Alice is kicking Steve";
    (b) An indefinite noun phrase: "Alice is kicking a ball";
    (c) A definite noun phrase: "Alice is kicking the ball."
    Can we do the same thing with "Alice is thinking something"? No, no, and no
    Srap Tasmaner
    (a) Descartes's cogito,
    (b) a thought.
    (c) the thought.
    Yes, yes, yes. Yes?
  • Srap Tasmaner
    2.7k


    "Alice is thinking Descartes's cogito"? I don't think that's English.

    For your other examples, yes! After I tacked on the what-clause thing, it occurred to me we can go directly for other anaphoric noun phrases:

    "Alice is thinking the same thing as Steve."
    "Alice is thinking a thought not unlike my own."

    Can you think of an example that just sticks a regular noun phrase in there, and not some anaphoric construction like this?
  • tim wood
    5.6k
    Don't take this amiss, but why bother? What's the point? Are you trying to prove something about the world through grammar?
    And,
    "Alice is thinking Descartes's cogito"? I don't think that's English.Srap Tasmaner
    Why not? In addition to thinking about the cogito, she can also be thinking it itself.

    As to two people having the same idea, of course any two things whatsoever at the right level of focus can easily be shown to be two insanely different things. You may as well ask if two screws machined from the same bar of metal to exactly the same specs are the same, and of course they are not, except, again of course, in terms of their intended use wherein they had better be the same.

    Connection to Plato? Maybe the meat is there.
  • Srap Tasmaner
    2.7k
    Are you trying to prove something about the world through grammar?tim wood

    That would be the Platonist you're thinking of, not me. I should have thought that was perfectly clear.

    Because of the grammatical similarity between "Alice is kicking something" and "Alice is thinking something", there is a temptation to say that there is something Alice is thinking -- "there is" in a full-blooded sense: ideas are things like bricks, they exist independently of us, like bricks, all the rest.

    Anaphoric constructions aside, we know what goes in place of "something" in "Alice is thinking something"; it's constructions like

      "that the roof will never hold"
      "of going to graduate school in the fall"
      "about her grandmother's house".

    Any of those look like things to you?
  • tim wood
    5.6k
    Now I get it. Thank you! My bad! As it happens I think idea are things, just exactly not like bricks, but rather as ideas. That is, they must be something. As to what, exactly, let's give the science another fifty years or so. Meanwhile, the language gets the world's work done, whether by appiximation or as convenient fiction, or as the rare truth itself. Is it the natural deceptive quality of language that's causing the question?
  • Srap Tasmaner
    2.7k
    I think idea are things, just exactly not like bricks, but rather as ideas. That is, they must be something.tim wood

    Why do you think that?

    minor point
    --- My last post has a slip: the bit about "ideas are things like bricks ..." is clearly not what should be there, because we don't think ideas; it should be "thoughts are things like bricks", and so on.

    But we can ask similar questions about ideas:


    Do you think ideas are things because if you have an idea, there must be something that you have?
  • tim wood
    5.6k
    They're something and not nothing, yes? And if not nothing, something, but not like bricks. In fact, not like any thing. They're something but not a thing. It seems like an absurdity. But the alternatives are worse: they're nothing at all, or they're bricks. Part of this is resolved in a right understanding of the words we're using. And the rest, imo, in the recognition that bricks and nothing are not exhaustive of what is.
  • tim wood
    5.6k
    And in the recognition that language itself makes no pretense of being a perfect tool, though we try to construct perfection within it.
  • Srap Tasmaner
    2.7k
    They're something and not nothing, yes? And if not nothing, something, but not like bricks. In fact, not like any thing. They're something but not a thing. It seems like an absurdity.tim wood

    Perhaps you're trying to answer the wrong question.

    As to what, exactly, let's give the science another fifty years or so.tim wood

    Which pair of questions do you think it more likely the science will find more tractable?

    A1: What is a thought?
    A2: What is the thing Alice is thinking when she is thinking about her grandmother's house?

    B1: What is going on when we are thinking?
    B2: What is going on when Alice is thinking about her grandmother's house?
  • tim wood
    5.6k
    Well, it seems to me science will regard them as different but related questions, as genus to species. It seems fair to me for me to group these under mental - mind/brain - activity, and thus keep them as a something as opposed to nothing. And I'm not much interested in my speculations as to what thoughts are or thinking is, not least because for nearly all purposes it doesn't seem to matter.

    So we're back to what's the point. Not being mean or suggesting there is not one, but rather that I haven't yet got it.

    If it's about Platonic ideal forms, I have seen reference that they are better understood - from the Greek - as participial forms. That is, the ideal forms of justice, or courage, or horse, are not themselves things, but rather being just, being courageous, being a horse, all understood as being as their best. And it would not be the first time that difficult thought was caused by misunderstanding, or that the misunderstanding was not easily surrendered.
  • Andrew M
    1.1k
    Sure, but what goes in place of "something" in "Alice is kicking something"? It's a noun phrase of some kind:

    (a) A proper name: "Alice is kicking Steve";
    (b) An indefinite noun phrase: "Alice is kicking a ball";
    (c) A definite noun phrase: "Alice is kicking the ball."

    Can we do the same thing with "Alice is thinking something"? No, no, and no.
    Srap Tasmaner

    Even if not, it doesn't follow that abstractions are nothing. Consider:

    • If Alice is thinking that it is going to rain, must we conclude there is something that Alice is thinking?

    Yes, that it is going to rain.

    Anaphoric constructions aside, we know what goes in place of "something" in "Alice is thinking something"; it's constructions like

    "that the roof will never hold"
    "of going to graduate to school in the fall"
    "about her grandmother's house".

    Any of those look like things to you?
    Srap Tasmaner

    They're not concrete things, they're abstractions. When we see Alice grab her umbrella, we assume she thinks that it is going to rain. But that is an abstraction over her behavior, not some additional thing that has an independent existence. And we can consider that abstraction separately from its concrete context, i.e., as an abstract entity.
  • Srap Tasmaner
    2.7k
    When we see Alice grab her umbrella, we assume she thinks that it is going to rain. But that is an abstraction over her behavior, not some additional thing that has an independent existence. And we can consider that abstraction separately from its concrete context, i.e., as an abstract entity.Andrew M

    There are several points here that confuse me:

    1. "Alice is grabbing her umbrella" is also an abstraction, right? We are leaving out whatever else is going on with Alice in describing her current behavior as "grabbing her umbrella".

    2. "Alice thinks it's going to rain" is an abstraction in the same way (1) is -- we're not talking about whatever else may be going on in her mind -- but is it an abstraction in some other way? Is there another sense of abstraction in play here?

    What I have in mind first is something like this: if we think of "grabbing an umbrella" as an action someone might perform, then we might take "thinking it's going to rain" not as another sort of action, to be correlated with "grabbing an umbrella", but as a disposition to perform the action "grabbing an umbrella". That seems like a different sort of abstraction -- one level up. (This disposition talk, as a way to deal with the mental, has a pretty low reputation these days, but I wanted to leave it as an option.)

    If we take "someone grabbing an umbrella" as an event, I suppose we could think of "that same someone thinking it's going to rain" as another sort of event that could cause the first sort, but I'm inclined to think of it as a distal cause (if I'm using that term correctly!), something like the disposition above, a condition or situation that, if it obtains, makes it more likely that events of the "someone grabbing an umbrella" type occur.

    3. Alice is a concrete entity and Alice's umbrella is a concrete entity; is "Alice grabbing her umbrella" an abstract entity? Is that what actions are? Or events? How do we capture the difference between "Alice grabbing her umbrella", a sort of abstract event that might occur, and "Alice is grabbing her umbrella" which, while an abstraction in the simple sense of (1) is pretty concrete -- it's a realization of "Alice grabbing her umbrella" after all.

    4. Is there yet a third sense of "abstract" -- beyond actions/events, dispositions/conditions -- we apply to what someone is thinking, or what someone is doing, or what is happening? So we might have "that it's going to rain", "grabbing her umbrella", "Alice grabbing her umbrella" as the answers to what is she thinking? what is she doing? what is happening? Is this a different sense of "abstract" or are these again like simple (1)-type abstractions, leaving out everything but the content being thought, the type of the action being performed, the type of the event occurring.

    Sorry to labor this so!

    The tl;dr is that if what's being thought is an abstract entity, is that because there's something special about thinking? or because thinking is acting? or because thinking is an event occurring? Is it abstract because it's thinking, or because all our descriptions are abstractions?
  • Andrew M
    1.1k
    The tl;dr is that if what's being thought is an abstract entity, is that because there's something special about thinking? or because thinking is acting? or because thinking is an event occurring? Is it abstract because it's thinking, or because all our descriptions are abstractions?Srap Tasmaner

    No, not because it's thinking.

    By an abstraction, I simply mean something that does not exist independently of a concrete and particular context but can be considered independently of that context. Whether that be events, actions, thoughts, descriptions, or whatever.

    So, by abstract entity above, I'm just referring to Alice thinking that it is going to rain. We might call it a thought or a belief or a sentence or a proposition. But the main point is that we can treat it as a separate entity for the purpose of analysis. We might care that it is about to rain, not specifically that Alice thought it. And certainly we can investigate the idea that it might rain without needing to involve Alice further.

    Similarly, actions don't happen independently of agents that act. But we might only care about that action in abstraction (e.g., somebody took the last umbrella and now I'm going to get wet), not that it was specifically Alice's action.

    So to address your points, which will hopefully make sense in the context of the above.

    1. "Alice is grabbing her umbrella" is also an abstraction, right? We are leaving out whatever else is going on with Alice in describing her current behavior as "grabbing her umbrella".Srap Tasmaner

    Yes. But, also, this is the concrete context. Grabbing doesn't occur in the abstract. There's Alice and the umbrella here as well. This is relevant because ...

    2. "Alice thinks it's going to rain" is an abstraction in the same way (1) is -- we're not talking about whatever else may be going on in her mind -- but is it an abstraction in some other way? Is there another sense of abstraction in play here?Srap Tasmaner

    ... ideas don't happen in the abstract. Alice is here as well. So it's that sense of dependence of the abstract on the concrete and particular that I'm emphasizing here (rather than selectiveness, though that's true as well). And the same sense of abstraction as above.

    3. Alice is a concrete entity and Alice's umbrella is a concrete entity; is "Alice grabbing her umbrella" an abstract entity? Is that what actions are? Or events? How do we capture the difference between "Alice grabbing her umbrella", a sort of abstract event that might occur, and "Alice is grabbing her umbrella" which, while an abstraction in the simple sense of (1) is pretty concrete -- it's a realization of "Alice grabbing her umbrella" after all.Srap Tasmaner

    I would consider this the concrete context. We can observe Alice grabbing her umbrella, which is concrete for medium-sized, dry goods such as ourselves. But after observing many people grabbing their umbrellas, we might abstract out that commonality.

    4. Is there yet a third sense of "abstract"Srap Tasmaner

    I'm intending just the one sense. In considering something abstractly, we are being selective as you note, and there are different ways that might manifest, including at increasingly complex levels. But the key point is that it depends on something concrete.

    That, I think, is sufficient to contrast it with Platonism. (And Nominalism, as it happens, since events and actions can occur independently of naming and minds.)
  • Srap Tasmaner
    2.7k
    By an abstraction, I simply mean something that does not exist independently of a concrete and particular context but can be considered independently of that context. Whether that be events, actions, thoughts, descriptions, or whatever.Andrew M

    I'm intending just the one sense. In considering something abstractly, we are being selective as you note, and there are different ways that might manifest, including at increasingly complex levels. But the key point is that it depends on something concrete.Andrew M

    So glad you've chimed in, @Andrew M!

    Your approach (which you would say is broadly Aristotelian?) seems very sound: there is only one sense of "abstraction"; it is what we do when we consider a particular concrete context selectively.

    I wonder, though, why is existence -- as in the first quote
    and also suggested here
    Even if not, it doesn't follow that abstractions are nothing.Andrew M
    -- part of this story at all? If Alice is thinking it's going to rain, why even say that there is a thing, the thought that it is going to rain, that does exist, only it doesn't exist independently of Alice thinking it is going to rain, or of someone thinking it is going to rain?

    I ask for two reasons:

    (1) If I'm of a mind to deny that Alice thinking something entails there is something Alice is thinking
    note
    (( that is, except as a matter of grammar; I mean to deny only that "there is" should be taken in the full-blooded sense of something existing ))
    , and you insist that we can consider what Alice is thinking independently of the concrete occasion of Alice thinking it, I do not need to deny this -- why would I? I only need to deny that us considering what Alice is thinking entails there being something we are considering.

    (2) If the point is to emphasize our capacity to consider things selectively, and to describe this somewhat picturesquely as an ability conjure abstract entities for our consideration rather than being compelled always and only to consider the totality of the concrete situation, I will point out that we are already doing that all the time simply by using language in the first place.

    Insofar as we want to ignore whatever else is going on with Alice except her thinking about the chance of rain and taking her umbrella, we say, "Alice is taking her umbrella because she thinks it's going to rain." "Considering selectively" is not a special thing we do sometimes with language; it's practically all we ever do.

    But there does seem to be an exception to the idea that language is always selective: names of concrete particulars. When we refer to Alice, we mean everything about her, or at least intend not specifically to exclude anything about her.

    The question then is whether, in creating "names" on-the-fly, we are referring to abstract particulars such as "Alice taking her umbrella" (an action or an event), and that question seems particularly acute when the name is anaphoric and thus somewhat open-ended: "what Alice said" or "what Alice did" or "what Alice was thinking".

    And now we're sort of back where we started, but with a somewhat different focus.
  • Srap Tasmaner
    2.7k
    I've been neglecting the motivating role of quantifiers, so a quick note.

    If Alice took her umbrella, we have to say Alice did something, right? The only alternative seems to be that she did nothing, but that's not the case, for she took her umbrella.

    If I agree that, in taking her umbrella, Alice did something, while denying that there is something that Alice did, I am no more committed to saying that Alice did nothing than I am to saying there is nothing that Alice did.
  • Valentinus
    838
    At the bottom of all this, there is the question of a shared reality. Most discussions of this kind are poleaxed on whether we only "share" what is some kind of sharing operation or there is something else, a third thing if you will, that connects our perceptions and rational analysis of things to what is actually happening.
  • Srap Tasmaner
    2.7k


    I used to find the "third realm" argument (for instance, Frege's version) persuasive, but now I can't imagine why.
  • Andrew M
    1.1k
    So glad you've chimed in, Andrew M!Srap Tasmaner

    Thanks, and I'm enjoying the discussion! :-)

    Your approach (which you would say is broadly Aristotelian?) seems very sound: there is only one sense of "abstraction"; it is what we do when we consider a particular concrete context selectively.Srap Tasmaner

    Yes (and, as you note, it's broadly Aristotelian).

    I wonder, though, why is existence -- as in the first quote
    Even if not, it doesn't follow that abstractions are nothing.
    — Andrew M
    -- part of this story at all? If Alice is thinking it's going to rain, why even say that there is a thing, the thought that it is going to rain, that does exist, only it doesn't exist independently of Alice thinking it is going to rain, or of someone thinking it is going to rain?
    Srap Tasmaner

    I don't think existence needs to be part of the story, at least in any metaphysical sense. "Thing" is simply a common way to refer to abstractions as well as concrete things.

    For example, suppose a mother asks her son, "Is there something you should be telling me?" Her question should be understood in an ordinary sense, not as having metaphysical implications. Certainly, she would not expect to be told by her son that abstractions don't exist.

    I ask for two reasons:

    (1) If I'm of a mind to deny that Alice thinking something entails there is something Alice is thinking (( that is, except as a matter of grammar; I mean to deny only that "there is" should be taken in the full-blooded sense of something existing )), and you insist that we can consider what Alice is thinking independently of the concrete occasion of Alice thinking it, I do not need to deny this -- why would I? I only need to deny that us considering what Alice is thinking entails there being something we are considering.
    Srap Tasmaner

    I think it's just a matter of grammar. I don't think there are metaphysical implications in that phrasing.

    (2) If the point is to emphasize our capacity to consider things selectively, and to describe this somewhat picturesquely as an ability conjure abstract entities for our consideration rather than being compelled always and only to consider the totality of the concrete situation, I will point out that we are already doing that all the time simply by using language in the first place.Srap Tasmaner

    Agreed.

    Insofar as we want to ignore whatever else is going on with Alice except her thinking about the chance of rain and taking her umbrella, we say, "Alice is taking her umbrella because she thinks it's going to rain." "Considering selectively" is not a special thing we do sometimes with language; it's practically all we ever do.Srap Tasmaner

    Agreed.

    But there does seem to be an exception to the idea that language is always selective: names of concrete particulars. When we refer to Alice, we mean everything about her, or at least intend not specifically to exclude anything about her.

    The question then is whether, in creating "names" on-the-fly, we are referring to abstract particulars such as "Alice taking her umbrella" (an action or an event), and that question seems particularly acute when the name is anaphoric and thus somewhat open-ended: "what Alice said" or "what Alice did" or "what Alice was thinking".
    Srap Tasmaner

    As long as we take care not to reify such abstractions, is there really a problem here?
  • Srap Tasmaner
    2.7k
    I think it's just a matter of grammar. I don't think there are metaphysical implications in that phrasing.Andrew M

    Then you are not my target audience!

    As long as we take care not to reify such abstractions, is there really a problem here?Andrew M

    Right, this is the part of your position I've ignored: abstract entities have only dependent, not independent existence. By "reify" you mean precisely attributing independent existence to something that doesn't have it.

    Here's one way we can talk. There is a general event type, someone thinking it's going to rain; there is a particular event type, Alice thinking it's going to rain; and then there are particular instances of that, Alice's thinking yesterday that it was going to rain. (Obviously lots of other ways to carve that up...)

    That last is a particular, but in your terms it is not a concrete particular, not because of anything to do with types and instances but because every instance of Alice thinking it's going to rain is dependent for its existence on Alice existing, is inseparable from Alice. We separate what Alice is thinking from Alice only fictively, by means of abstraction.

    And then two people thinking the same thing is still as simple as I want it to be, just a matter of using the same words to describe what you fictively detach as "what they're thinking." If you then generalize, you can talk about the idea "that it is going to rain" as what anyone you would describe as thinking it's going to rain is thinking.

    One little question: in this analysis, every instance of Alice thinking it's going to rain is dependent for its existence on Alice existing, not on Alice independently existing, right? I'd love to stay away from saying what that's supposed to mean, but we don't seem to rely on it anyway. Do you agree?

    So far we're juggling general vs. particular, abstract vs. concrete, and dependent vs. independent. There are obvious temptations to match them up (respectively) that I'm trying to be careful about.
  • Gary M Washburn
    142
    Slavery was abolished, it is said, in the wake of the Civil War (the Proclamation some say did so was tenuous at best, and the Thirteenth Amendment passed as the war waned, rushed through by Lincoln for fear that final victory would lead to tabling the matter forever). But what was actually outlawed was only the specific title ownership of one specific person by another specific person. But what if a system develops in which that same ownership is generalized? If one class of persons have the labor of others available to exploit as they choose, but without the particularity of title? Is that ownership "abstract"? If you think so, I wish you would try to explain this to all the folks who are forced to tolerate the same but 'abstracted' condition that is supposedly outlawed in its more concrete form!

    Socrates regarded conviction as pathology, to be cured by rigorous cross-questioning. The Athenian Stranger replacing him in Plato's later work believed so too, but lacked the skill Socrates had for bringing his interlocutor to be grateful for the refutation, the cure of his conviction. To discuss Plato as if he meant to put us on a road to perfecting our convictions, rather than ridding us of them, is to completely miss the point. I suggest you check out the meaning and place of "aischron" in his work, and that you all ask yourselves why Plato chooses the most despicable characters he can find to accompany him in the dialogues in which Socrates does not appear, and so leads the interlocutor of the Stranger to a transformation of his convictions unrecognized by him? As in Laws.
  • Srap Tasmaner
    2.7k


    I appreciate your comments but of course we are not discussing Plato, only the theory bearing his name that reifies meanings, ideas, numbers, propositions, concepts, what have you. Though I haven't read as much Plato as you, I too find his approach valuable and liberating; the theory bearing his name, less so.
  • Gary M Washburn
    142
    Sorry if my outburst seems not to the point. It's as if the literature since him has been reading Aristotle, or the 'Platonists' of the Christian era, instead. It's travesty, not philosophy. The human organism constructs all manner of autonomous systems, but what is real is only the rigor of correcting for its errors and inadequacies, not the system itself. But where nothing seems to disrupt our confidence in these systems, call them abstractions or generalizations if you must, they tend to convince us they are real. Platonism is, to my mind, only a distortion to be overthrown.

    The TV series F-Troop had a running gag in which the main characters would join a group of marching soldiers by doing a little hopping jig to get into step. The human heart beats each pulse in response to the immediate needs of the body, but medicine feels the need to perceive it as a rhythmic system. Mess with that system as a system and the heart can be sent out of sync with its own capacity to respond to the instantaneous needs of the body, what this pulse needs to supply it, and the result is "a-rhythm". That's the danger of taking ideas as real. Not just the heart, of course, but all human affairs, bodily and conceptual. That's the danger of taking ideas as real. Not just the heart, of course, but all human affairs, bodily and conceptual. That is, we get displaced from our ability to respond to what is really real, hence “idealism”.
  • Andrew M
    1.1k
    Right, this is the part of your position I've ignored: abstract entities have only dependent, not independent existence. By "reify" you mean precisely attributing independent existence to something that doesn't have it.

    Here's one way we can talk. There is a general event type, someone thinking it's going to rain; there is a particular event type, Alice thinking it's going to rain; and then there are particular instances of that, Alice's thinking yesterday that it was going to rain. (Obviously lots of other ways to carve that up...)

    That last is a particular, but in your terms it is not a concrete particular, not because of anything to do with types and instances but because every instance of Alice thinking it's going to rain is dependent for its existence on Alice existing, is inseparable from Alice. We separate what Alice is thinking from Alice only fictively, by means of abstraction.

    And then two people thinking the same thing is still as simple as I want it to be, just a matter of using the same words to describe what you fictively detach as "what they're thinking." If you then generalize, you can talk about the idea "that it is going to rain" as what anyone you would describe as thinking it's going to rain is thinking.
    Srap Tasmaner

    Yes, exactly. Well put.

    One little question: in this analysis, every instance of Alice thinking it's going to rain is dependent for its existence on Alice existing, not on Alice independently existing, right? I'd love to stay away from saying what that's supposed to mean, but we don't seem to rely on it anyway. Do you agree?Srap Tasmaner

    Well, thinking needs a subject (such as Alice). But Alice doesn't, in turn, have a subject - any chain of dependencies terminates with her. So in that sense, she is not dependent on anything further for her existence.

    This just means that ordinary objects - things we observe or could potentially observe - just are our starting point for investigation, and the dependencies and relations between things flow from there. It's the view from somewhere as opposed to the Platonic view from nowhere (beyond the cave).

    So far we're juggling general vs. particular, abstract vs. concrete, and dependent vs. independent. There are obvious temptations to match them up (respectively) that I'm trying to be careful about.Srap Tasmaner

    Indeed. Anyway, to begin with, ordinary objects are particular, concrete and independent.

    The dependency relation between ordinary objects and abstractions characterizes Aristotle's fundamental disagreement with Plato. For Aristotle, ordinary objects (his primary substances) were the fundamental entities. Whereas for Plato, the eternal Forms were the fundamental entities, and ordinary objects depended on (participated in) those Forms.
  • Srap Tasmaner
    2.7k
    Well, thinking needs a subject (such as Alice). But Alice doesn't, in turn, have a subject - any chain of dependencies terminates with her. So in that sense, she is not dependent on anything further for her existence.Andrew M

    If I understand you correctly, we're talking about conceptual dependence here. That I can deal with. It even has a natural connection to Frege's saturated/unsaturated distinction: "___ is thinking it's going to rain" is unsaturated, incomplete, and therefore an abstraction, and therefore has only dependent existence.

    I was seriously afraid that "independent existence" was going to lead to having to say what the ultimate constituents of the universe are! You have a comfort level with QM that I don't, so I thought that might not scare you as much as it does me; or, rather, it might be something I would rather not have to do just to talk about what ordinary sentences mean, but you might not mind!

    Or, even if we're not doing that, we might take "dependent" in Alice's case to mean, you know, a planet with a breathable atmosphere and a food source, stars, the universe. Alice's existence isn't independent in any number of ways.

    For Aristotle, ordinary objects (his primary substances) were the fundamental entities.Andrew M

    So here maybe we're talking about what is conceptually fundamental, and for what Sellars calls the "manifest image" (or for Strawson's "descriptive metaphysics") that is indeed going to be sensible objects and persons.
  • bongo fury
    689
    Truth is not correspondence to reality. Why?Dfpolis

    Because only whole sentences can be true, whereas only parts of sentences can correspond to reality.

    The correspondence relation is sometimes called "is true of", but that doesn't help, although it perhaps fuels the expectation.

    But true sentences can correspond only to made-up abstractions.
  • Dfpolis
    1.1k
    But true sentences can correspond only to made-up abstractionsbongo fury

    Not quite. Abstractions are not "made-up." Objects are intelligible, they can be understood. They are also are conplex, having many aspects, many notes of intelligibility, that can be understood. By becoming aware of objects, we make what is potentially known, what is merely intelligible, actually understood. The problem is that our brains have limited working memories, and cannot fully represent even what we sense. So, we chose to fix on some aspects, some notes of intelligibility, to the exclusion of others. That is abstraction, i.e., attending to some things and ignoring others. What we attend to is there, not made up. It is just not all of what is there.

    The question of truth is the question of adequacy. Is our vision of reality, incomplete as it is, adequate? If it is, it is true. If it is not it is misleading and false. Whether or not it is adequate will depend on our needs. A vision adequate to one need may be inadequate to another.
  • bongo fury
    689
    hmm...

    My bad for quoting you in this other thread. I think @Srap Tasmaner already questioned your usage of "abstraction". How about:

    But true sentences can correspond only to made-up abstractions chimaeras.bongo fury
  • Srap Tasmaner
    2.7k


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